BBC director-general Mark Thompson has confirmed long-standing rumours that he intends to leave his post after the London 2012 Olympics – so who will replace him this autumn?
Several high-profile TV executives – many of them at the BBC already – have been touted as possible contenders for one of the most high-profile jobs in television.
Here are some of the runners and riders:
Probably the favourite. As director of BBC Vision, Entwistle is already the man to whom channel controllers report. Before his appointment last year it was widely thought that headhunting firm Egon Zehnder had been asked to find someone who could subsequently be a potential DG. And Entwistle certainly has versatility on his side: he has worked as editor of Newsnight, acting controller of BBC4, head of TV current affairs and controller of knowledge commissioning.
Appointing the first female DG would generate positive headlines, and Boaden is in the frame as the BBC’s current director of news, a position she has held since 2004. Her appointment in 1998 as head of current affairs made her the first woman to hold that job. In between she spent four years as the controller of Radio 4, but perhaps her long stints in news make her experience too narrow for the top job.
The current chief operating officer at the BBC, Thomson is also in effect the deputy DG following the retirement in May 2011 of Mark Byford. Her present role sees her in charge of the BBC’s editorial policy, communications, marketing and legal activities, as well as the digital switchover and the move from west London to new premises in Salford and reorganised offices in central London.
Abraham has one obvious positive on his side: as chief executive of Channel 4, he is in the same job Thompson left in 2004 to become DG at the Beeb. He has held his position at C4 for a little under two years. Previous jobs at UKTV and Discovery give his CV a more commercial flavour than some other potential candidates.
Highly regarded at the BBC before he was forced to resign as controller of BBC1 in 2007, after the channel was caught editing footage of the Queen in a misleading fashion. It may well be thought now that this was a relatively harmless scandal that has not damaged Fincham himself too much – especially as in his current role as director of television at ITV, he has presided over a revival in the channel’s original drama slate, led by the massive success of Downton Abbey.
A former controller of BBC1 and BBC2 who also served for three years as chief executive of Channel 4. Jackson is currently based in the US, although he was mentioned as a potential executive chairman of ITV before Michael Grade took the job in 2007. It would be an unlikely comeback to the BBC for Jackson now – but before his sudden departure from the BBC in 1997, he had rapidly risen through the ranks there and been tipped for the DG role.